ST ANDREW’S DAY PUBLIC HOLIDAY

29 Nov 2011

John Mason’s Constituency Office will be closed on Friday 2nd December in lieu of the St Andrew’s day public holiday observed by Scottish Parliament staff.

Mr Mason’s surgery will still take place between 5-7pm on Friday evening. The office will re-open at 9am on Monday 5th December.

Same Sex Marriage

26 Nov 2011

I have been asked to explain further my position on same sex marriage. This is not always possible to do in brief TV interviews such as I have done on Newsnight (August) or the Politics Show (November).

My understanding has been that majorities of MSPs within all five parties represented at Holyrood are supportive of same sex marriage. Therefore, it seemed to me crucial that if legislation was to be introduced on this subject, churches should be allowed to opt out of any such marriage ceremonies if they wished to do so. That is why my motion in August concentrated on this point (see wording below). Since then there have been reassurances from Government, politicians across the parties, and gay spokespeople that they agree churches should be allowed freedom to act in accordance with their own beliefs. This is encouraging.

As I write this the consultation is still continuing and is due to conclude on 9 December 2011. I know that Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government will take the consultation responses seriously so I continue to urge as many people as possible, whatever their views, to send in a response. Only after the responses have been considered will a decision be made as to whether or not there will be legislation.

Clearly it remains to be seen what any legislation might actually say. Therefore, I have tried to avoid stating what my position would be in regard to any bill, because we have not seen the bill yet! In addition, a Scottish bill might do its best to provide safeguards for churches and others but it could still be trumped by Westminster legislation (most obviously the Equality Act). Therefore, I would also be looking for reassurances regarding Westminster legislation and this could require amendments to the Equality Act (which is outwith the power of the Scottish Parliament). This point is noted in the Scottish Government’s consultation.

I cannot, therefore, say at this stage how I would vote on any bill that might come forward.

Concerning my own personal beliefs, it is widely known that I am a member of Easterhouse Baptist Church. I believe that the Bible is the word of God and its teachings are God’s direction as to how I should live my life.

It is perhaps worth stating that I do not see the Christian faith as primarily a code of conduct. Rather I see it first and foremost as a relationship with Jesus Christ available to people who realise they cannot manage their lives by themselves. Thus, it is after coming into such a relationship with God, that I and other believers look to the Bible to see how we should live our lives.

Some of the Bible’s teaching coincides with widely accepted legislation in many countries, e.g. not to murder, not to steal. However, other teaching, such as loving our neighbour or controlling our thoughts, cannot possibly be and should not be enshrined in legislation. Such teaching is more of a code which I and other Christians should aim to follow. Frequently in my life I have done, said or thought the wrong thing, or failed to do, think or say the right thing! However, the central truth of the Christian faith is that we do all repeatedly fail but we can all be forgiven.

It seems clear to me that the Bible’s teaching is that a follower of Jesus should not have a sexual relationship with someone of the same sex. However, that does not mean I see it as my role to stop everyone else having such a relationship. Not all that Christians regard as sin should be against the law. This is why I have said I am ‘relaxed’ about same sex marriage. I accept that this is not the view of all Christians. Some would say that the Bible’s teaching should be put into the law of the land as far as possible. There is clearly a variety of views within the Christian church as to exactly how far we should seek to have God’s teaching included as the law of the land. On this specific point of same sex sexual relationships, I see the key teaching of the Bible as being not to have the relationship at all. I see it as very much secondary whether the relationship is called a civil partnership, marriage, or anything else. However, again I accept that some parts of the Christian church see the use of the word ‘marriage’ as very important.

It is also worth pointing out at this stage that I, and I think many other Christians, would make a major distinction between sexual orientation and sexual behaviour. I realise that this is not the view of all of the gay community. Whereas, colour, sexual orientation, gender, disability, etc are part of our make up, outwith our control, and must not be grounds for discrimination, Christian teaching is that our sexual behaviour should be under our control and we are responsible for it.

As an MSP who represents constituents with a wide variety of views on this (and many other!) subjects, I do not want to see any kind of discrimination and it is my duty to oppose all discrimination. In that sense I am relaxed about allowing same-sex marriage. At the same time, as someone seeking to follow Jesus Christ, I can say that I am clear that people following Him should not be in same-sex marriages. This is obviously a tension! Some would say it is contradictory and I have been criticised from both ends of the spectrum. I would just say in response that my view of church is non-conformist and I am very committed to a clear separation of church and state. Therefore, while it is not always easy, I will try to keep a proper balance between my responsibilities in a largely secular society and my own personal beliefs.

In summary, therefore, I seek a pluralistic society where minorities can live together in mutual acceptance even while disagreeing on many issues. I do not want the Christian community to try and squash the gay community; nor do I want the gay community to squash the Christian community.

A lot depends on the consultation, the wording of any draft bill, and how Westminster legislation will be dealt with. My primary concern remains that churches and others who do not agree with same sex marriage should have the freedom to disagree.

Motion S4M-00586 (August 2011)
That the Parliament notes the current discussion about same-sex marriages and the Scottish Government’s forthcoming public consultation concerning equal marriage; further notes that, while some in society approve of same-sex sexual relationships, others do not agree with them; desires that Scotland should be a pluralistic society where all minorities can live together in peace and mutual tolerance; believes that free speech is a fundamental right and that even when there is disagreement with another person’s views, that person has the right to express these views, and considers that no person or organisation should be forced to be involved in or to approve of same-sex marriages.

MSP SPEAKS IN CELEBRATION OF BIBLE ANNIVERSARY DEBATE

18 Nov 2011

SNP MSP for Glasgow Shettleston, John Mason, recently took part in a Scottish Parliament Members’ debate to commemorate the People’s Bible which has been making its way around Scotland.

The Glasgow MSP was speaking in a Members’ debate, secured by his SNP colleague, Dave Thompson, MSP for the Highland constituency of Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch.

The motion for debate recognised that the People’s Bible has travelled over 5,500 miles since June 2011 and recorded 18,320 verses in over 60 towns and cities in Scotland, which included Glasgow.

Commenting after the debate, John Mason MSP, said:

“This debate was a good opportunity to talk about faith, the Bible and our own personal experience of God’s word.

“In contrast to Westminster where the proceedings start with prayers, the Scottish Parliament is pretty secular and it’s unusual to get the opportunity to speak about my faith quite so openly, so I enjoyed the opportunity to reflect on my own experience of the Bible and how I take encouragement from it.

“Faith, interpretation of the Bible and one’s relationship with God is something that has been the subject of much discussion in Scottish politics recently, particularly with topics such as gay marriage and the Sectarianism Bill being discussed, so I felt this was a good opportunity to dispel some of the myths about the Bible.

“It was, however, a little disappointing that no Labour or Liberal Democrat MSPs even attended the debate let alone spoke. Surely there are some in these parties who consider the Christian faith to be important? As it was, only SNP and Conservative MSPs attended and spoke in the debate which marked a hugely significant milestone for Scotland’s Christian community.

“That said, Wednesday’s debate was timely and rightly recognised the fantastic achievement of the People’s Bible, which has been a huge success in commemorating this, the 400th anniversary of the King James translation”.

MSP OPTIMISTIC ABOUT 2014 GAMES

10 Nov 2011

Scottish National Party Member of the Scottish Parliament for Glasgow Shettleston, John Mason, has tabled a parliamentary motion in Holyrood to mark 1000 days until the opening of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

The MSP who represents Parkhead, Dalmarnock, Tollcross, and Glasgow Green where the bulk of the competition will take place, lodged the motion as the 1000 day mark passed with news that the Commonwealth Games facilities are on time and on budget.

Speaking from the East End, John Mason MSP, said:

“I am very enthusiastic about the Commonwealth Games coming to Glasgow. This is a great opportunity for us to showcase the East End to the rest of the world and I have every confidence that we will do that well.

“It is particularly encouraging to hear that the facilities currently being built are on-time and on-budget. It is already clear from walking around the East End that the building work is coming along well. I myself recently visited the velodrome and indoor sports arena in Parkhead and was very impressed with the progress.

“The 2014 Commonwealth Games will be a real boost to the economy of Glasgow and will provide a lasting legacy for East End folk. Over the next few months I want to pin down more details as to how East End residents will benefit directly from the games. For example, I want to know what using the facilities will actually cost local residents.

“The Commonwealth Games – which are 80% funded by the SNP Government – is just the latest in a number of projects which will regenerate the East End. These capital projects come in addition to the recently completed M74 motorway extension and the new Edinburgh rail link via Airdrie, both of which were on time and on budget.

“It’s an exciting time to live in the East End and that excitement will only continue to grow as we approach 2014”.